Critics Have Seen Poor Things, And They Are Raving About Emma Stone’s ‘Hilarious’ And ‘Raunchy’ Performance

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Written By Maya Cantina

The year may be coming to an end, but the box office is still firing on all cylinders in the final weeks of 2023. After its release was delayed due to the SAG-AFTRA strike in September, Poor Things starring Emma Stone is finally in theaters. And from the critics’ reactions, it sounds like director Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest project was worth the wait. Critics are all praising the performances, particularly Stone’s, and given what we know about Poor Things, we might want to keep our eye out for this title when awards season rolls around.

Adapted from the novel by Alasdair Gray, Poor Things tells the story of Bella, who is brought back to life by a scientist (Willem Dafoe), but as she develops emotionally, intellectually and sexually, she yearns for more and runs away with a debauched lawyer (Mark Ruffalo in a role he was initially scared to take). In CinemaBlend’s review of Poor Things, Mike Reyes calls the film “a frank and funny exploration of self-fulfillment.” He rates it 4.5 stars out of 5, writing: 

Through his usage of this palette, Yorgos Lanthimos actually feels beguiled by that aesthetic, giving us worlds of wondrous visuals that aren’t just being quirky for the sake of being ‘different.’ With performances that are as colorful as the backdrops the characters inhabit, this tale of self-discovery and knowledge really shines for the audience that seeks it – especially when you could consider Poor Things to be one of the raunchiest mad science/fairy tale movies you could expect.

Emma Stone was nominated for an Academy Award the last time she worked with Yorgos Lanthimos (on The Favourite), and many think her performance as Bella in Poor Thingsher weirdest movie yet — might lead to more accolades. Brian Truitt of USA TODAY is one of those, as he gives the movie 3.5 stars out of 4, writing: 

The biggest hoot in Poor Things is witnessing the modern-thinking Bella as a filter-free force of nature in such a patriarchal period: She causes fits for all the controlling men in her life – some mean well, others are more domineering – but Bella will not be denied, especially during a revelatory final act driving home her insistence that she will never let herself be imprisoned.

Dana Stevens of Slate agrees this might be one of Emma Stone’s best movies, and while the storylines are a bit incohesive and Yorgos Lanthimos makes visual decisions the critic can’t get behind, Poor Things is still a “kinky delight,” Stevens says: 

It’s Stone whose technically astounding yet thrillingly unhinged performance lets this high-concept project achieve liftoff. Lurching through the film on limbs that move like she’s half zombie and half baby, taking in everything she sees through nonjudgmental eyes the size of saucers, or engaging in the brisk sexual congress she refers to as ‘furious jumping,’ Bella is an indelible creation: She’s Frankenstein’s monster in satin bloomers, Pygmalion’s Galatea leaping off her pedestal to take off at a full run. If for no other reason, watch Poor Things for the chance to see an actor at the top of her game build a character literally from the ground up, growing from infancy to strong-willed womanhood using no effects more special than the body and face God(win) gave her.

Prabhjot Bains of Our Culture Mag rates Poor Things a perfect 5 out of 5 stars, praising its stellar ensemble. Emma Stone is “utterly engrossing, hilarious, and liberating,” and the critic calls this Mark Ruffalo’s strongest performance in years. Willem Dafoe is great as a mad scientist, never allowing himself to be pigeonholed. Bains continues: 

By the time the credits roll, Poor Things already feels like an instant classic, making every use of the medium’s tools. In a late scene, a character tells Bella ‘We must experience everything’, and it’s a message both she and her film take to heart, traversing every spectrum of emotion and sensation en route to a devilishly winking finale. Poor Things is truly a cinematic feast, and easily one of the greatest movies of the year. Though it may be too bizarre for Oscar glory, it will sit firmly and boldly in the minds of cinephiles for years to come.

Lindsey Bahr of the AP, like the other critics, praises the acting in Poor Things but also joins her peers in noting the work behind the camera. The cinematography, costumes and production design also impress in this depraved fairy tale, Bahr says, giving the movie 3.5 stars out of 4: 

This story exists in a Victorian dream/nightmare, a vision so stuffed with fantasy it reminded me of The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. But it is undoubtedly among the year’s most sumptuous visual delights with production design by James Price and Shona Heath, and costumes by Holly Waddington. Lanthimos and cinematographer Robbie Ryan again employ the fisheye lens that they used in The Favourite. It’s extra, but at least it makes more sense in this purposely disorienting world.

In addition to the above opinions, critics overall seem to agree when it comes to Emma Stone’s latest role. Poor Things has accumulated a 93% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes from more than 150 assessments. If you want to check out Yorgos Lanthimos latest movie, you can do so now, as it hit theaters on December 8. There are still some great options on the 2023 movie calendar, but you can also get a jump on next year’s offerings by checking out our 2024 movie calendar


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